The Benefits of Reminiscing

Taking that stroll down memory lane could do you more good than you realize.  According to the American Psychological Association, reminiscing is associated with a number of positive benefits and can be a powerful tool used to improve one’s mood and mental state.  Older adults can especially reap the benefits.  Recalling memories can help seniors realize how full and rich their life has been and how strong they are for overcoming the challenges and losses they’ve faced.  Reminiscing also creates a sense of connectedness by reminding the individual of the relationships they have had and of those bonds that still remain.  Recalling memories can even enhance self-esteem as seniors recreate their life’s meaning by connecting to the past.  Additional benefits of reminiscing include:

- Preserving Family History – Many times, family members know little about their older loved one’s past experiences and relationships.  Sharing these memories can help document family history, while bringing family members closer as they share together. 

- Improving the Quality of their Lives – Seniors who reminisce often have an improved outlook on life. Remembering happy memories can create balance in their lives and combat depression and loneliness as seniors are taken out of their current situation by their memories.  Talking about the past can provide entertainment and reduce boredom for seniors who are no longer as active.

-Reducing Stress – Talking through old memories can even reduce stress levels.  One way this occurs is by working through unresolved conflicts from the past.  And for some, negative emotions can also be addressed by talking about them indirectly through stories and shared memories.

Combating Alzheimer’s and Other Forms of Dementia
Memories are so influential that “reminiscence therapy” is a treatment used often to help individuals dealing with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.  This treatment uses all the senses — sight, touch, taste, smell and sound — to help individuals with dementia remember events, people and places from their past.  

Snyder Village’s Memory Care programs regularly use reminiscing as a beneficial treatment for residents. Health Center Activity Director, Amanda Yetter, explains, “During each activity, we try to encourage residents to share memories – whether it be the price of certain items when they were young and raising their family, or maybe who they went to church with, what was their favorite pet, or what sports they or their children played, etc.”   Each resident is also given the opportunity to make a personal memory box with help and input from their families.  The box is put on display and used regularly as a tool for memory recall.  In addition, residents take part in a senior reminiscing program each year in partnership with a local museum, where a museum educator uses photographs, authentic objects, and inquiry-based conversation to encourage residents to recall and share their own memories.    

Sharing the Benefits
An added bonus to living in a senior care facility or retirement community like Snyder Village is the frequent opportunity to reminisce with peers and neighbors.  Having regular fellowship with other seniors around their own age can often result in older adults reliving the “good old days” together.  Maxine Kern, a resident in Snyder Village’s retirement community, recently celebrated her milestone 100th birthday, which means that Maxine has nearly 100 years of memories to enjoy.  An afternoon spent reminiscing with Maxine exemplifies many of the positive benefits memories can produce.  Her family history is preserved as Maxine recalls the five different wars that have occurred during her lifetime and which family members actively served.  Her stories of growing up on a farm and working the land with her father lend insight into her family’s role in the community and agriculture.  Her outlook on life is improved as she realizes how thankful she is to have many of the modern conveniences that we have today.  No longer does she have to carry her water from a well or try to do daily tasks without the use of electricity.  And loneliness is pushed away as she recalls joyful times spent with her late husband – like their first meeting at an “old-fashioned box supper” – and raising their five children together.  Maxine’s memories even provide unique entertainment as she shares her adventures of driving a horse and buggy four miles to her high school each day, or the surprising tale of when the famous pilot, Charles Lindbergh, appeared at their farmhouse doorstep after making an emergency landing in her father’s field.

Memories hold more power than we may have previously realized.  So take note of those special moments and share a story with a friend or family member.  It will do you (and your health) good.